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Underride Accident Lawyers

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Underride accidents are one of the most common types of truck accidents—and, unfortunately, one of the most deadly. Drivers and passengers of the smaller vehicle often suffer personal injury or major damage to their vehicle.

These types of accidents should also be some of the most preventable collisions on the road, but sadly, a number of factors contribute to underride accidents each year.

If you or a loved one have been in an underride accident, an underride accident lawyer could help you build your case, and seek compensation for what happened.

Orange truck and a white collison

What Is an Underride Accident?

Underride truck accidents are one of the scenarios that can happen when a smaller vehicle and a tractor-trailer collide, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. In these cases, the smaller vehicle will crash into either the side or the back of a semi-truck, then slide underneath the larger vehicle.

Because a commercial truck is so high off the ground, it can be hard for drivers of smaller vehicles to avoid sliding under the larger vehicle in these collisions. Often, the force of the impact will shear the roof off the smaller truck or car. Since it’s also difficult to stop a big rig, the smaller vehicle will often get crushed underneath the semi-truck.

Factors That Contribute to Underride Accidents

Like all roadway collisions, a number of factors can lead to an underride truck crash.

One of the most common causes of underride accidents is aggressive driving on the part of the passenger vehicle. Tailgating or following a big rig too closely can lead to a collision.

Similarly, driving under the influence or speeding — especially in inclement weather — can cause the driver of the smaller vehicle to veer out of control and smash into the side or the back of a semi-truck.

But drivers of large trucks can also be at fault if they stop suddenly, make illegal turns, run red lights, attempt to change lanes in an unsafe way, or drive under the influence.

Like with all types of accidents, sometimes a collision is unavoidable. A passenger vehicle getting hit from behind or sideswiped by another vehicle, or a driver being forced to react to something on the road, can lead to an underride accident.

Types of Underride Truck Accidents

Not all underride accidents are the same. There are several ways this scenario can play out.

Side Underride Crashes

Side underride crashes are what happens when a passenger vehicle collides with the side of a commercial truck. These types of auto accidents occur most frequently when a commercial truck driver is turning onto a road or making a U-turn, as the full length of their trailer may jackknife, temporarily blocking the road.

An oncoming driver of a passenger vehicle may assume the semi-truck is moving faster than it is, or may not see the tractor-trailer, leading to the underride accident.

Rear Underride Collisions

Rear underride collisions occur when the driver of a smaller vehicle crashes into the back of a commercial vehicle. These types of car accidents can have a number of causes, including tailgating on the part of the passenger vehicle driver or sudden stops on behalf of the semi-truck driver.

Commercial trucks with poor markings can also be a culprit, due to lack of visibility. And rear underside collisions also frequently happen when large trucks are moving slowly or parked on the side of the road, scenarios that might startle passenger vehicle drivers, leading up to the car crash.

How Do Underride Guards Affect Truck Crashes?

In 1998, Congress required all big rigs to be fitted with rear underride guards — steel bars that hang from the back of large trucks to help prevent passenger vehicles from sliding underneath. Measures to enforce installment of rear guards have proven effective at reducing the number of rear underride accidents and fatalities.

Despite several attempts, Congress has not passed legislation that would require a trucking company to install side underride guards on their big rigs. While some side guard models are currently being developed, there’s nothing being done to prevent the frequency or severity of side underride accidents.

Injuries That May Result From an Underride Accident

Underride truck accidents are among some of the most frequent and fatal accidents on the road. Crashing into a commercial vehicle could cause a rollover accident, cause a passenger vehicle to catch fire, or have other dangerous outcomes for motorists.

But even in cases where drivers and passengers avoid deadly consequences, personal injuries can be severe. Some of the most catastrophic injuries and severe injuries include:

  • Spinal cord injuries, including paralysis
  • Traumatic brain injuries and other head injuries
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Bone fractures
  • Internal bleeding
  • Organ damage
  • Disfigurement
  • Dismemberment

No matter the size or severity of your injury, you may be entitled to compensation. If you or a loved one have been impacted by an underride crash, a personal injury lawyer can help you file a personal injury claim.

Who Is at Fault in an Underride Truck Crash?

There are many ways someone can be “at fault” for a car accident, including:

  • Negligence: Failing to take proper care in a situation that leads to an accident, such as running a red light
  • Recklessness or Wanton Behavior: Irresponsible behavior that results in an accident, such as speeding or tailgating
  • Intentional Misconduct: Entirely avoidable scenarios that lead to an accident, such as drunk driving

Aside from determining fault, personal injury lawyers must also determine liability. Someone is liable for a truck accident when his or her actions directly led to the scenario. The party or parties found liable in an un underride accident are responsible for paying damages.

Underride crashes may result in one or more liable parties. A skilled truck accident attorney will work with insurance companies and all other parties to help determine who should be held legally responsible for an underride accident.

Liable Parties in an Underride Accident

Again, a number of parties may potentially be held liable for an underride accident.

The Truck Driver

The driver of a commercial truck can be found liable for a number of different reasons. Most commonly, these parties are considered responsible for the car accident and any injuries to accident victims for reasons such as speeding or failing to maintain their vehicle (i.e. driving with bad brakes).

The Passenger Vehicle Driver

Similarly, there are many different reasons why the driver of a passenger vehicle may be found at fault or liable for this type of truck accident.

Some of the most common reasons passenger vehicle drivers are found liable include following too closely (tailgating) or driving in a commercial truck’s blind spots.

Liability laws vary by state, but it’s also common for the driver in the rear of a rear-end accident to be presumed liable, regardless of whether the vehicle in front was a big rig.

The Trucking Company

It’s common for a trucking company to be found liable for an underride accident, especially if the commercial truck driver is found at fault for the scenario.

Aside from the legal ties that bind a trucking company to their drivers, there are a number of ways where the company’s own actions — or lack thereof — could have contributed to the accident, including:

Installing rear underride guards that:
  • Are not the right size
  • Are placed too high
  • Do not meet strength or impact requirements
Failing to maintain their vehicles, including defective or ill-maintained:
  • Brake lights
  • Tail lights
  • Running lights
  • Reflective tape

How Does Negligence Affect an Underride Accident Injury Claim

Negligence describes a range of actions a driver did or did not take that led to an accident. Broadly, it refers to whether a driver was using reasonable care in a given situation, and can include scenarios like failing to yield or stop at a red light, failing to use turn signals or headlights, or even speeding.

Usually, if someone is found negligent in an underride accident, the other party is legally allowed to pursue compensation. The claim could cover everything from costs for serious injuries to property damage to emotional distress suffered as result of the collision.

Can You File a Claim if You Were at Fault in an Underride Accident?

Many states will allow you to file a personal injury claim for an accident you were found to have fault in. The potential payout you receive may be reduced based on the level of fault you’re found to have in the crash, something legally referred to as comparative fault.

Still, there are some states that outright ban people from filing a personal injury claim if they’re found at-fault in an accident. You can consult with personal injury attorneys about your particular state’s laws.

Damages in Truck Accident Claims

If you’re involved in an underride truck accident, you may be able to seek damages, which is the legal term for the compensation you can receive.

There are several categories of damages you may be able to claim, including:

  • Special damages: Costs related to medical bills, future medical care, or rehabilitation. Special damages may also be awarded for lost wages, lost earning capacity, and even home renovations that must be made in the case of a personal injury.
  • General damages: Covers anything not directly related to finances, including pain and suffering, mental trauma, psychological anguish, and diminished quality of life.
  • Wrongful death: Costs incurred in a fatal underride crash, including funeral and burial costs, medical costs before the death, loss of insurance or pension, and loss of companionship, among others.
  • Punitive damages: Rarely awarded in these cases, but representing a flat sum from the liable party in cases of wanton disregard, including cases of driving under the influence.

Your truck accident attorney will help you determine the types of damages you may pursue in your case.

Underride Accident Rates in the United States

According to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), underride was a factor in 63% of rear-end accidents involving commercial trucks in 2008 alone. There were 532 fatalities linked to these collisions.

A separate study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that, between 2008-2017, there was an annual average of 219 fatalities caused by underride crashes with large trucks.

Numbers are difficult to come by, but the problem remains a consistent one, even with the addition of rear underride guards.

How to Get Started on an Underride Truck Accident Case

If you or a loved one have been impacted by an underride truck accident, you likely have the right to file a legal case.

Filing a claim may require gathering evidence, filling out paperwork, submitting that paperwork, presenting the case to a judge, and negotiating with the other party’s lawyer and insurance company.

The process can be time-consuming and stressful, especially if you suffered an injury or personal loss from the accident. But hiring an experienced attorney can help move things along as smoothly as possible.

Many underride crash lawyers offer free consultations, which can help you understand your case and start to build an attorney-client relationship. Especially in situations this delicate, it’s important to find an attorney you can work with and trust.

FAQs

Navigating the legal side of an accident can be confusing. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions to help you through the process:

What Is a Truck Underride Guard?

A truck underride guard is a structure attached to the back of a semi-truck that prevents a smaller vehicle from sliding all the way under the trailer. It’s made of steel bars that protrude from the back of the truck in a u-shape.

The structure is meant to hit the car in a way that stops it from driving completely under the truck while reducing as much damage as possible to the passenger vehicle.

What Is an Underride Collision?

An underride collision is a crash between a commercial truck and a smaller vehicle, usually a passenger vehicle such as a car, light truck, SUV, minivan, or even motorcycle.

In these types of crashes, the smaller vehicle hits the side or the back of the large truck and passes underneath the trailer, typically causing a great amount of damage to the smaller vehicle and, frequently, fatalities for the driver and passengers.

Is the Truck Driver Always at Fault in an Underride Crash?

No. There are a number of scenarios in which the driver of the smaller vehicle could be at fault for an underride crash, including if that person is speeding, tailgating, or driving under the influence. In the case of rear-end collisions, many states also presume the rear driver is at fault.

It’s also possible for neither driver to be at fault, if something else happened that impacted both vehicles, causing the crash.

What Is the Average Settlement for an Underride Accident?

This answer depends on a number of factors, including how severe the accident and damages were, whether anyone died or was grievously injured, who was considered at fault, and which state the accident occurred in, among others. Some states also have caps on how much a person can receive as compensation in these cases.

Still, an average payout for a wronged party involved in an underride crash can range anywhere from $150,000-$200,000, with some cases reaching millions in damages.

Find Help With Your Underride Accident Personal Injury Case Today.

If you or a loved one have been involved in an underride accident, reach out today for a free case evaluation, legal advice, and to be connected with a law firm that can help.

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